Acorn Goodness

Roasted Acorn SquashThis time of year I’m seeing bins of acorn squash at all my local grocery stores. It’s perhaps a little off putting to see a vegetable in the shape of a giant hard acorn. I mean what the hell are you supposed to do with it, crack it? Plant it and see if a tree grows? But the truth is that when roasted properly, acorn squash makes a delicious and satisfying winter time dinner that will fill you up without deviating at all from your healthy regimen. Definitely Bootcamp friendly. ;-)

So here is what you do. Very easy. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your acorn squash in half against the grain. Scoop out the seeds and guts from the crevices and then trim the outer ends so that the squash will sit straight up with the crevices facing up. Coat the outside skin with a very thin layer of olive oil, then place them on a foil lined quarter sheet pan. Now for some flavor. In a small bowl combine the following:

  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp maple sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • pinch of clove
  • pince of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Mix thoroughly and spread evenly between the two halves. Rub mixture thoroughly over the flesh of the squash and drain any excess that pools into the bottom of the cavity back into the bowl and set aside. Season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Then place a small pat of butter in each half of the squash. Put tray into the bottom half of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and the edges are crispy.

Eat directly from the squash, drizzling the remaining maple syrup mixture over each half and adding some extra butter as desired. Or, scoop out all the squash, place into a bowl and lightly mash together with the left over syrup, some extra butter, and an extra sprinkle of maple sugar. As I always tell you, do not run out to buy spices you don’t already have. Make up your own seasoning. Brown sugar can easily be substituted for maple sugar, but maple sugar is really great stuff.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Maple Vanilla Fruit Salad

Well friends it looks like this is going to be Costco week. I’ve said it before I’ll say it again – I love Costco. Starving artist’s best friend. I went at the end of last week and ended up with quite a bounty of items. As you know, the point of Costco is bulk, and as you further know, the starving artist loves a bargain that he is able to morph into many diverse treats. First up – berries. I bought a gigantic bucket of gorgeous strawberries for $5 as well as a sizable container of blackberries for $4. Of course the majority of these beauties are destined for my juicer, but since I have SO many I thought what a perfect opportunity to make a fruit salad. But throwing fruit in a bowl is not good enough for the starving artist – no no. I need to use my pantry to make it sparkle. I immediately went for the maple sugar – I’m sure you remember me talking about it in my Maple Roasted Sweet Potato post. ¬†I sliced 7 strawberries and placed them in a small bowl with a few handfuls of blackberries and some blueberries I got from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. I threw in about 3 tablespoons of maple sugar. two to three drops of vanilla extract, tossed it all together, and let it sit on the counter for a good 20 minutes (as long as an hour would be even better). When I was ready to eat it I sliced up a banana and tossed that into the mix along with a handful of sliced toasted almonds for crunch. Delicious.

If I really had it my way I would have used the innards of a vanilla bean instead of extract, but I’m the starving artist – there is no budget for such luxury. Also if you’re looking to make it completely over the top you can drizzle on a little maple syrup before you eat. And of course, this is fruit salad, which means you can put in whatever you want. Maple and vanilla are two of my favorite flavors on earth, and I love fresh berries, so this salad does it for me, but there are so many possible variations. Here are some ideas:

  • Top it with a dollop of your favorite honey-flavored greek yogurt
  • Use granola instead of almonds for added flavor and texture
  • Instead of maple, use plain sugar and toss in a few finely diced leaves of mint.
  • Almond extract would work well in this application, as would peppermint, just be careful – potent stuff
  • Use any combination of fruit you love – pineapple, grapes, mango, pear, apple, etc, etc.

Stay tuned for more treasures from Costco, including what to do with a huge tray of campari tomatoes and how you can put a bucket of cilantro lime shrimp to excellent use. God I love summer.